TAIPEI (CNA) — Legislators on May 14 failed to reach a consensus on several key controversial clauses in a closely-watched review of three competing same-sex relationship bills, but did agree on the removal of an article that would have given close relatives the right to request the annulment of a same-sex union.
Hopes of consensuses being reached at the negotiations were dashed shortly after it kicked off at 9 a.m., when Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆), who put forward one of the three bills, declared he would under no circumstances accept the government’s (Executive Yuan) version.
Lai requested that his bill be reserved in its entirety and be forwarded to a scheduled plenary legislative session on May 17, before leaving the negotiation room, which made it impossible for other lawmakers to make changes or reach a consensus on clauses where Lai’s version has comparable articles.
Lawmakers are expected to put all concerned clauses and motions to a vote at the plenary session, so as to deliver a bill that legalizes same-sex relationships before the May 24 deadline set by Constitutional Court Interpretation No. 748, which guarantee same-sex couples’ the right to marriage equality.
As the initiator of the third draft bill, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Tai-hua (林岱樺), was also absent from the negotiation, little progress was made.
Only five of the 27 clauses were “recommended for passage,” governing less sensitive issues such as both parties’ choice of residence, conditions for failing to end a relationship, and the use of the Family Act to handle family matters in same-sex households.
Lawmakers also jointly suggested, with the support of the DPP caucus, that a clause in Lin’s version — which allows family members or relatives, within three degrees of kinship from either side, to request an annulment of a union under the pretext of preventing sham unions — to be removed.
However, no consensus was reached on pressing issues such as the type of relationship gay couples will be allowed to have, marriage or civil union, how both parties will be legally described, and whether one party will be allowed to adopt the non-biological children of the other party.
Of the three bills, only the Executive Yuan version permits a formal union of marriage between same-sex couples, while Lai’s and Lin’s versions only allow the formation of a same-sex “familial relationship” and “union” respectively.
Regarding the matter of children, the Executive Yuan bill allows one party to adopt the biological children of the other, but not their non-biological ones, with the other two bills permitting merely a form of guardianship.
Both KMT Legislator Jason Hsu (許毓仁) and DPP Legislator Yu Mei-nu (尤美女) criticized the restrictions in the Executive Yuan bill pertaining to the adoption of children, saying they impact the rights of gay people who have adopted non-biological children and those who hope to do so after starting a family with their loved ones.
To help more gay couples fulfill their dream of having children, the New Power Party (NPP) caucus proposed a motion that asked the government to recognize children conceived overseas via assisted reproduction techniques, or born overseas through a surrogacy arrangement.
In response, Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) said since Constitutional Court Interpretation No. 748 does not protect the right of same-sex couples to have children and suggested that such a controversial issue is better dealt with incrementally.
As all three bills fail to touch upon transnational marriage, the NPP also submitted a motion asking that same-sex couples be exempted from regulations stipulated in the Act Governing the Choice of Law in Civil Matters Involving Foreign Elements.
Article 46 of the above-mentioned act states that the formation of a marriage is governed by the national laws of each party, which means Taiwanese will not be able to create a legally recognized relationship with a partner from countries where gay marriage has yet to be legalized.
Both NPP motions have been reserved for further discussions at the upcoming plenary session.
By Stacy Hsu